Poems by John Kinsella

John Kinsella with son Tim.

743f (Book VI)
I have no problem with the logic
of purgatory following paradise.
To see bees cluster about knotholes
in York gums and to smell
the honey of their community
and realise that their presence
almost certainly means the doom
of the native bee, can’t be blamed
on Varius. Toxicity is chemical.
In the catchment the rain is strongest
because great trees remain and great trees
have appeared because of terrain: land
and life mutually nurture. A system.
Pilfering the edges and working
in to the lusher centres, developer
and “citizen” work hand-in-hand
to settle where it’s most “beautiful”:
clearing away the “beauty” to make
dwellings, then fearing living
where fire comes in summer, clearing
more away that they might dwell
safely: rainfall lessening with dwindling
vegetation. Bees forced into analogies
of profit and labour. A system.
A thousand years in high-yielding
Elysian fields, exemplars of agriculture,
to be reborn into the imperfections
of organic farming resistance. Bodies
altered and competing for new purity.
Only language changes. Not ambition.
In the Theatre of Hate, they shape
the next generations. Hale fellows,
well met. So many sibyls projecting
characters, wanting applause.
Anonymity is a fate worse than.
And heroes of the people will
graciously thank the servants
of lighting and costumes. We
have done our time, they’ll gesture,
now it’s time to step out in our
new bodies, glorious as bees
away from the hive, endangered
plants offering up their flowers
as willingly as weeds: saturated
in pollen, high on the nectar.



Dividing the Shadows

inruat et frustra ferro diverberet umbras
— Virgil, Aeneid, book VI, lines 285–294

Most ghosts settle on the skin like eczema.
Some pass through and stimulate cancer.
It is nothing to with vengeance, even where
they are disturbed or distraught. They react
differently with different body chemistries.
They recognise genetic familiarity and follow
the trails. They show up as monsters under
black lights: Scyllas, Briareus, the rasping
creature of Lerna, flaming Chimaera, Gorgons
and persistent Harpies. Medicine and science
scythe away at them but they change shape
and rise again. Out of the shadows deep
in the gully I watch a red-capped robin
hop and skip towards a filament of fence-
line. It divides the shadows as it goes:
they close over in its wake, needing no
energy source. Darkness is the liveliest
state, they say, though the wind is light.
To untrained eyes the red-capped robin
seems unscathed, its future bright.
It casts such a small shadow.



Graphology Overtures 

1. less than perfect sonnet
Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
Allegro, ma non troppo un poco maestoso,
Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
Allegro ma non troppo: un poco maestoso.
Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
Allegro ma non troppo; un poco maestoso,
Allegro ma non troppo un poco, maestoso!
Allegro ma non troppo: un poco maestoso.
Allegro ma non troppo un poco maestoso
Allegro ma non troppo; un poco maestoso;
Allegro ma non troppo un poco, maestoso!
Allegro ma non troppo un poco maestoso:
Allegro ma non troppo un poco maestoso
Allegro, ma, non troppo, un poco, maestoso?
Nought comes of “mea culpa.”
None want to learn what you have learnt.
Neither here no there, from their perspective.
Never a moment to spare.
Not a leg to stand on though you stand, nonetheless.
No doubt the sun will rise over “what.”
Nary a whisper, nary a word, nary a soul.
Bazinian? Empire and hotel.
Camping in the foyer,
Gathering? Facial tics install.
Placid is paramount less voyeur.
Scupper rose outré,
Garden exposé;
Heteronyms produce
Wounds wound in produce:
Lists built as comforter,
Tags on rolling stock:
No ad hoc
Triumph, auteur.
Brian Blanchflower, Canopy IV — Transfigured Night
Yes, Perth is “acrylic asphaltum sand and oil.”
On canvas.
White spoil/s.
But, oh and alas,
what a “pretty
5. Hymn (Callimachus)
Ice morning
then fog
valley crest-
fallen, chatter
Sun over-
ride: declara-
tive. Coondle
Names for-
Philip K Dick:
and vinyl records.
Know thyself.
7. Annihilations of self
We move downrange
I inhale upper reaches
We exclaim injustice
I absorb infractions
We note exiles in nests
I, cold in my den, scan
We know this as “war zone”
I tend excesses of “peace”
We interdict and collate
I in your scalene support.
8. for Ken Wark
Opossum and short-beaked echidna.
Groundhog and numbat.
Kangaroo (Western grey) and a raccoon.
Red cardinal and a red-capped robin.
“Barn owl” and “barn owl.”
Crow versus crow?
Mosquito and mosquito? Vectors.
Too much of what I read
I (nonetheless) celebrate
the bloodlessness of textual
resistance: the turning away
of weapons. My — our — moment
of Goya, Voznesensky,
paling by comparison,
but all the same,
all the same.
They’ve no idea
where the Outback begins.
That it never ends
is their driving
They’ll populate it with Europoets
in the hopes of safety: a partial
change in the zeitgeist,
in their favour.
Ladle cymbiform
reliquary: sails
of paralipomena.



Salmoneus: a dynamic equivalence

lines 485–495

In the ripsnarl of turbo chargers
and roll cages, the rally drivers
will unwind and rewind the loop,
trace the keyhole road with rubber
lips, “getting off on it, advertisers”
logos festooning panelwork, revving
air to shakedown trees, shatter
frosted webwork, decree thunderous
clouds of exhaust, chromed challenge
to any naysayers that show their heads —
shouted down, off-roaded, imitated
to show just how dull those gods
have become. Witness the flit of parrots,
the trauma of sheep, the “look at me!”
that sweeps onlookers once the driver’s
helmet is removed — warrior enflamed,
such danger in fuming winds of change.



The Mangled Spectre of Deiphobus

(Virgil, Aeneid, book VI, lines 494–534)

The signature of Helen hacked
into my face and body — what’s not
written tells more than the flourish
of handiwork, her first husband
making up for lost time, deleting
truth and rewriting the histories
of love and dedication: the sword
beneath my pillow removed by her,
along with every other means of defence
once hung throughout the chamber;
this legacy that leaves only a desire
for vengeance, hollow as cenotaphs
along the shore worked by wind and rain.
It compounds the insult to know that she
danced naked in mock sacredness, singing
the enemy soldiers, foetuses in the wooden
horse’s belly. Her countryman and our
wives in her band, her sparkling display.
I slept the sleep of the dead, the joy.
I woke to see myself die, desecrated.